Friday, March 8, 2013

Darwin Day

Even though it’s already passed, I wanted to talk a little bit about Darwin Day, why it’s so important, and why it’s improperly named.

Darwin Day, for the unaware, occurs every year on February 12th, which was Charlie’s B-Day. To the best of my knowledge, there are no “Darwin Day Traditions” or anything much associated with it. There’s no specific decoration like mistletoe. There’s no special food like turkey. There’s no special event like trick-or-treating. I’m unclear as to whether or not I would even want a tradition for this holiday. On the one hand, I love Darwin Day, so of course I would love for it to be more popular than it is today, but I can’t really think of anything one could do to properly celebrate this day. Charles Darwin was part of a club of adventurers that traveled around the world to find new animals to eat, (I am not making that up) so maybe our Darwin Day Dinners should include something weird to eat, like a koala. Just a thought.

But like I said before, there’s nothing that can be used to truly celebrate Darwin Day not because there’s nothing we could find to fit thematically, but because Darwin Day actually is more important than these types of celebrations.

Darwin Day, like I said, was Charles Darwin’s birthday, but we’re not really celebrating Darwin himself, are we? Not to say that he wasn’t a super guy, because he was, but the reason he is famous is not for being super, but by discovering evolution and creating a theory to explain it.
But then, theories get made all the time, and we didn’t create holidays honoring those creators do we? There is no Newton Day for discovering gravity and creating its theory, or Hubble Day or Einstein Day, so what makes Darwin Day so special?

Well, it’s the idea of evolution that’s so great. I would argue that evolution, while still being a very important and informative theory, is really impressive because of how brave it is, and how brave it makes us. Evolution as an idea challenges us to consider and examine something seemingly untouchable: our own origins. The first person to widely publish theory of evolution (I forgot his name. Starts with a D,) was able to take evidence from the beaks of birds and create a working theory of us, of all of us. And it’s not cool just because it was right, it’s cool because he created a space in which we could question and then subsequently explain everything around us. From then on out, nothing was sacred in the realm of science, and our understanding of the universe expanded because of it. Darwin Day is really not about Charles Darwin or evolution; it’s about the idea that with science we can learn about anything. We are all a little braver because Charles Darwin was born February 12th.